Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/6/13
The Mesa Fresh 2016 girls’ team, playing together in a full-field format for the first time, staged a series of dramatic come-from-behind playoff victories to win the 2016 Division at the Fall Uprising this past weekend at the Cedar Lane Regional Park in Bel Air, Maryland.
Late heroics in both the penultimate and title games capped an impressive, though somewhat improbable, tournament performance, which also featured comebacks against all four pool play opponents before finishing as the top seed in the championship round.
None of the team’s preliminary game runs were classic wire-to-wire showings. But in the end, Mesa Fresh showed enough reserve and kick down the stretch to dispatch a succession of challengers, including Team Elevate (Long Island, NY) 16-11, TLC Lacrosse (Baltimore, MD) 14-8, Carolina Fever (NC) 8-5, and Elite Lacrosse Club – Orange (Bel Air, MD) 14-9 to win the Apple Cider Bracket.
Mesa’s match with TLC typified the team’s down-but-not-out tenacity. Trailing by three at the half, the collection of mostly Conestoga sophomores with a handful of freshmen schoolmates seized control of the game and held the Marylander’s scoreless in the second stanza. They coupled that feat with a 9-goal run of their own. That combination of lock down defense and offensive thrust proved to be an unexpected harbinger.
Mesa Fresh was tested in the semifinal game by the wildcard seed and the clock. Their opponent, a disciplined Ethix 2016 team from Syracuse, controlled the early draws and ran a methodical series of successful set plays around the Mesa cage to sprint ahead 3-0. Mesa still trailed 3-1 when it was saddled with a yellow card with 8 minutes remaining in the 25-minute running-time playoff game. Playing shorthanded with time in short supply, Mesa refused to be caught on the rail. The team manufactured a series of turnovers, quick strikes and draw controls in the waning minutes. It was just enough to enable Mesa to advance in an exciting 6-5 victory.
The championship game featured the two top-seeded and undefeated thoroughbreds in the 2016 Division. The Rebels 2016 Black (MD), winner of the Chilly Brackett, breezed past the Future Elite (winner of the Cobweb Bracket) with a 6-0 triumph in the other semifinal.
Testing the truth of the maxim that everything comes to those that wait, Mesa tried to rally from a 4-0 deficit with 10 minutes left. The Rebels seemed to have the situation well in hand, particularly after Mesa was called for a dangerous propel that virtually foreclosed any hope for a final run.
Playing shorthanded with dim prospects against an experienced club team with possession and in a stall formation, Mesa turned to its menu of Mexican-themed schemes, engineered a Hot Tamale or two, and made things spicy. Fast break goals and draw controls in the homestretch were the recipe once again in a final gallop that took the Rebels and its entourage by surprise. Mesa quickened its stride and evened the score with a minute to play. Riding the momentum, the team notched the game winner just before the end of regulation in a frenzied photo finish, converting on a hotly contested ground ball that careened off the Rebel post just moments earlier.
Hearts and smiles ruled the day for the Philly Girls, who displayed unbridled grit and determination all weekend, especially in the bell lap. It was a rewarding amalgam of never-say-die efforts by the Mesa Fresh group, many of whom were asked to pony-up and play new positions given the hybrid but ultimately complementary composition of the squad.